Last night the Pirates did something for the first time since May 27, which is win games on back to back days. You may notice they did win two games in a row on June 7th, but that was a double header against the Mets. A combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting by the former MVP lead to a 6-1 victory over the L.A. Dodgers.
If you were worried about this game coming into it, you certainly were not alone. Rookie Japanese pitcher, Kenta Maeda, had a strong ERA of 2.64 while Pirates starter, Jeff Locke, was heading into the game with a 5.44 ERA. However, Jeff Locke did Jeff Locke things and pitched a marvelous gem. He had a perfect game through five innings when son of beloved Bucco star, Andy Van Slyke, Scott Van Slyke hit a double to left field to begin the 6th.
It was a pitchers duel for much of the game as Kenta Maeda was mixing up his bag of tricks and routinely sending the Pirates battery to the bench. No runs went onto the board until a 4th inning Andrew McCutchen cannonball was sent 427 feet into the left field bleachers. With Locke still pitching in the 6th, the Dodgers would tie it on an A.J. Ellis double that would drive in Van Slyke home. With the score 1-1 after the top of the 6th and Kenta Maeda facing Pittsburgh lineup for the third time, some of Jobu’s voodoo seemed to pay off as Andrew McCutchen hit his second home run of the night. This time it was sent 400 feet into the left field bleachers and drove in John Jaso and Starling Marte as well. To cap off the night, Jordy Mercer hit a home run 415 feet in straight away center for good measure.
The Dodgers struggles verse the Pirates pitching all night, but it was the implosion of Kenta Maeda that lead to their loss. As mentioned, Maeda had a 2.64 ERA heading into the game, but he has struggled all season in the later innings while facing a teams lineup the third time around. Just to show, his ERA in innings 1-3 are a 2.20. As most pitcher see, his ERA increases through innings 4-6 to a 3.05. However for Maeda, his ERA skyrockets in innings 7-9 to a whopping 10.8. This was certainly that has in the game as he allowed a Jaso walk, a Marte single, and then a McCutchen home run to begin his third time in our lineup.
In one of the most complete games the Pirates have played in a long time, they allowed only eight hits, while giving up just one run, while adding 6 runs of their own. Jeff Locke finished his brilliant day going 7 strong innings where he allowed just five hits, no walks, three strikeout, and allowed just a solo run to score. Tony Watson and A.J. Schugel cleanly finished the game allowing just three hits and no walks while Watson struck out three himself.
As pleasant as it was to see Andrew McCutchen go 2 for 4 with two home runs, there is still concerns about his play. Both homers were pulled to left field. The 12 home runs this gives him for the season keep him on his typical power pace, but it’s been the consistent hitting and driving the ball to all fields thats been his struggles. Yes, it was great to see a glimpse of old Andrew McCutchen, but tonight’s game does not necessarily mean he is off the hook yet. It has been said his thumb injury has been healing well, so if this is the game to bring his confidence level back, then it’s possible we may start seeing MVP caliber Cutch back in our lineup.
Today, the Pirates will get the greatest test they have made to date as they face Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is mowing down records like he is playing in a Pony League and it will be Chad Kuhl making his MLB debut that has the task of earning a winning streak for the ‘Burgh. Tonight’s game will be on ESPN with first pitch scheduled for 8:08 PM.